The numbers are trickling in from Tuesday — $3.1 billion and counting!
While reports suggest a modest uptick in giving, we are seeing a more nuanced picture with some causes reaching record highs while others are working hard to keep pace with last year.
So what does it all mean? Here’s our hot take on the good, the bad, and what gives us hope for the rest of the giving season.
The good: It’s giving… giving!
Across the industry, giving hit a wall at the end of 2022, and nonprofits have been wading through some strange economic times. (The economy is strong! But people are wary!) So we entered the giving season with much trepidation. And while, according to some reports, donor count is down about 10%, across our partners, we saw donation volume on Tuesday increase 2% versus last year. Meaning 2023 #GivingTuesday performance is the reminder we desperately needed. A reminder that, despite the economic climate we’re in, people really care enough to give financial support to the organizations, places, and missions they value most.
The bad: Inbox overcrowding is real.
Our personal email inboxes are, frankly, unreadable. Un-skimmable. The very things nightmares are made of. The texts? CHAOTIC. Unsolicited. Uninspired.
And this matters A LOT because these are the platforms we use to spread the word about the good work that causes are doing and why that work has value. While some of this overcrowding is due to the collective impact of nonprofits ramping up the email volume during end-of-year, much of it can be attributed to bad actors who are not afraid to spam. And we’re seeing the cost of that now.
It’s sad, but true: Charred earth tactics are ruining the methods of communication that this sector depends on. We have to do better. Especially since we are competing with other sectors who are trying to capitalize on what was once just an annual day of giving.
Yep, you probably noticed it, too: This year more than ever we saw a lot of #GivingTuesday creep. For example, “Travel Tuesday,” if you can even believe it? Honestly, it is hard enough to raise funds for important organizations, do we have to compete with airfare and hotel discounts?
Okay, but don’t fret! There is some good news here (despite the title of this section): 2023 paid media revenue — and search in particular — has skyrocketed.
Donors — maybe especially those donors overwhelmed by the sight of their inbox count ticking up and up and up — are looking for easier paths to support the causes they care about. On Tuesday, we saw paid media revenue increase by 33% on average and the cost of a click on search was much cheaper. While return-per-dollar-spent dipped a bit compared to last year, donors were actively seeking ways to give, and organizations that could spend on paid search and social capitalized on that demand.
What gives us hope: The beautiful and the innovative.
There are some organizations that are truly doing the work, telling incredible stories, sharing beautiful photos and videos, and making compelling cases for giving.
Meeting the moment with Amnesty International USA and Médecins Sans Frontières-USA
Many of the organizations we work with rushed to deliver aid swiftly to Israel and Palestine at the height of the most recent crisis. Despite the risk of increased fundraising appeals so close to the end-of-year season, there was no doubt in our minds that we needed to show up. Organizations like Amnesty International USA and MSF-USA (Doctors Without Borders) adapted their planned content and spoke directly to what was in the hearts and minds of their donors. By providing periodic email updates on the ongoing crisis, the content — and the calls to give — felt relevant and impactful.
Innovating with visuals on Oxfam America, UK for UNHCR, and UNICEF USA
Our friends at Oxfam America leaned into tried-and-true tactics like social proofing and enhanced it with design assets like this animated scrolling graphic.
UK for UNHCR set a goal and brought it to life in this animated graphic, which topped the best performing email of the day.
UNICEF USA is never short on stunning photography — and this email graphic was no exception. With the child’s direct eye contact and some light animation, along with a strong campaign theme, it gave the email the boost it needed to be one of their top performers.
In addition to these bright spots in our inboxes, we also saw some highlights on social media. For example, we didn’t expect that many (or any) influencers would head to social on #GivingTuesday, so when we saw Kat Stickler’s video supporting Shriners Hospital, it was a pleasant surprise.
This is how it’s done. She’s engaging. She’s comfortable because this medium is her lane. And, you can tell she really cares about their mission! What a truly great way to share your platform.
We’re also seeing low-fi direct-to-camera video work well for several organizations in ad content, on social, and more. Engaging with your audience in a genuine way can help your organization stand out on these crowded days.
One closing thought…
Is it really #GivingTuesday if we start promoting it a week before… or till the Friday after? It started with #GivingTuesday extensions on the Wednesday, turned into Giving Week, and now we’re seeing organizations going out with matches and campaigns earlier and earlier every year. Is it any wonder that funds raised on Tuesday have declined for three straight years? “Giving Tuesday” just doesn’t mean as much as it used to. And maybe that’s OK. When people see others in need or watch urgent issues play out in the news, why wait until the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to make a difference?
What matters is that people respond — and they respond to emails, ads, social posts, and website promotions. And that response gives us hope as we look to the end of 2023 and beyond.
TLDR; our final takeaways:
How can we be proactive and apply learnings before heading into another crucial giving stretch?
It’s no secret that getting to your ask early and often is a best practice. What we’re seeing is that it’s not just about where you make your ask, but how long it takes to make it. Shorter, more visual emails are solidly performing better — especially in those final moments when the last thing people want to do is read walls of text. So revisit your prepared content and simplify where you can. It saves time for everyone!
- Start early (if you can).
#GivingTuesday alone, especially given the crowding we’ve seen. We should be working to collect every donor possible along the way to year-end. Several organizations are reaching or breaking goals when we look at a giving season as a whole. That might mean accepting lower revenue numbers on day-of and staying patient with your eye on the totals over a longer period! And that’s really what matters. Don’t be afraid to evolve your expectations for what success looks like.
- Balance storytelling with urgency.
Given the longer time frame, think about the arc of your fundraising appeals. Be strategic about when to tell the compelling impact stories and when to lean more on deadline tactics. Also consider building in multiple deadlines — using goals or matching gift challenges — to create more urgency along the way.
- Think strategically about the role of each channel.
Giving behaviors have shifted over time, and while there was once the “email donor,” that moniker is now outdated. With every passing year, we’re seeing more and more revenue from other sources like paid media and web — but the channels are all working together. Email continues to be an essential source of revenue, but its role has also shifted slightly into more of an influencer channel. Your donors will read your email, poke around your site, and then give via an ad when the moment strikes. Invest in your paid media programs and come up with a solid plan for website promotion — to help you meet donors where they are and meet — or even smash! — your goals.
Snaps to all of us for making it through another Giving Week, and if you’re reading this, we hope that some of our findings can help you in these final few weeks of 2023, too.